First barbecue of the year

Frau is the one who does these things, not just the actual on-the-day work but the initiation, the invites and a large part of the hospitality. I, on the other hand, contribute by drinking a large percentage of the booze, standing over a smoky charcoal fire fending off complaints from the bloody guests that the bloody chicken is still a bloody chicken or that it has itself become charcoal.

As usual we were hosts to a manageable group of very nice friends. Die Grossfrau was there too. Also as usual we ended up with far too much of everything because the friends all came bearing plastic bags full of stuff. I paid little attention to the stuff in the bags until one friend gave me a nod and a wink which indicated that there was something in his bag which might be of particular interest to me. Sure enough, that which was of particular interest revealed itself to be a full bottle of Scotch! It went in no time, lost in a cloud of barbecue smoke worthy of Vesuvius in which stood a flailing and ranting maniac doing his best to destroy as many dead chickens as possible; or so it seemed to witnesses.

Even before the event, I had expressed to Frau my thanks to our ultimate overseer that we had no Turkish men coming (no Turkish women either, by the way). Not, I hasten to add, because of any general and stupid dislike of that demographic; (dare I say it?) …some of my best friends are Turkish. No! I just wanted to thrash around ruining chicken bits and those squidgy meaty things, somewhat similar to what McDollands serves, in peace, free from interference and in my own time. The presence of Turkish men friends would have resulted in having someone “helping.” Helping almost always means fanning and otherwise interfering with the fire. Look guys; I have almost certainly cooked more food over wood fires than you have ever eaten in your entire young lives… GO AWAY!

A flint, a horseshoe and a fungus

I think that I have previously admitted to being a show-off; some would put it in stronger terms. We used to take small groups of tourists on day walks and I would take great pleasure in lighting a fire for lunch the nomad way, I mean the old nomad way. These days of course they use matches, but a natural-born show-off isn’t going to score points by lighting a fire with a lucifer is he? The nomads would dry a certain fungus, one of those you will frequently see growing on a tree, and carry a supply with them. As even the most suburban of you will know a spark can easily be made by striking a flint with a piece of steel, so the nomads would carry a flint and perhaps an old horseshoe with them. Striking the two materials over a small piece of the aforementioned fungus results in it soon catching afire; not a flaming fire, just a slow smolder that can very easily be gently blown under a pile of dried leaves to produce the required flames, and within minutes the addition of twigs has a fire on the go. As we always made lunch at the same location, I was able to have my kindling wood and some dry leaves stashed ready for action immediately, so our roaring fire was ready for its chicken pieces or kӧfte within minutes: very impressive.

Horseshoe or Bowie knife?

After writing that last paragraph I took time off to walk around our land looking for a tree with such a fungus. I found what I was looking for on a mulberry tree and chopped a piece off. I noticed that the inside of the growth was quite dry, so guessed that it was long dead and had dried naturally. I have lost my flint, so out of curiosity I struck a match and applied it to the fungus and sure enough it immediately began its slow smoldering and I was easily able to ignite some dry leaves. I must get a new flint before our next BBQ. We have horseshoes aplenty but from a showing-off point of view I think that striking the flint against the back edge of my Bowie knife works better.

Back to the first barbie of the season. For our wedding reception nearly 15 years ago, we commissioned a young man to make us six small BBQ “machines” about 30 by 45 cm and one king-sized one that is 95 by 65 cm and stands the same height as our terrace tables. That is the one we use for groups of over four. So there I stood and did the man’s work. Frau of course had spent many more hours in the kitchen preparing all sorts of stuff, but as usual, yielding to me for the glory.

‘Ainsley’s Odyssey’

Digressing again, I am reminded of an event of about 20 years ago. A scout for the BBC arrived at our house ahead of a program they were to soon film and show in 15-minute episodes on a morning “Breakfast Show.” A well-known TV cook by the name of Ainsley Harriott was to travel the waters of the Turkish coast and the Dodecanese Islands cooking local specialties, and could we assist? The production team had come up with the idea of roasting a wild boar on the very famous beach of olu Deniz. We persuaded them that roasting a pig was culturally not a very sensitive thing to do and that the location would be far too busy during the tourist season. We decided on a much quieter location and that we would spit-roast a goat. We put the word out that we needed a spit of the appropriate wood and strong enough to bear the weight of a goat. Within a day or two we had four pieces, each cut green from four different trees, and each sworn by the four competing villagers to be in accord with tradition. One was from a fir tree so was instantly rejected as too resinous, and from the remaining three we chose one from a mulberry tree. Of course we told all four villagers that theirs was the chosen piece.

You might well have guessed that when it came to the business of actually preparing for the resulting meal, our TV star did almost none of the work except the presentation to the camera. Die Frau prepared all the salad dishes and the herby basting sauce for the goat. We understood that the star was doing his show-biz thing, and he was a very nice bloke indeed. I have to admit to one failing on our part. We recommended contacts to help with the show on two Dodecanese islands and in nearby Fethiye. All were friends of ours from our sailing days, and we failed to foresee that all would get spectacularly drunk on camera. The Irish lady in Fethiye couldn’t control her language well enough and was beeped out almost continuously; Georgos on Simi island took Ainsley out in his boat to catch an octopus. Unfortunately he also took out a bottle of Ouzo and drank it all. The last disaster was on the island of Castellorizon, and I cannot reveal the name of our friend nor give details of the episode for fear of legal action.

A. C. Jobim soothes Frau at Zurich

Again, back to the first BBQ of the season. The weather was perfect, the company was great and the food was exactly as it should be at a BBQ, including well burned meat. Many guests enquired as to the music. Frau had travelled back from Germany via Zurich airport and after a three-hour train journey and with a very old mother in tow, was feeling a mite frazzled. Passing through the airport she went through a lounge area where a man was playing his acoustic guitar. Recognizing the works of Antonio Carlos Jobim, she sat with her mother and listened for 10 minutes. She calmed down nicely, thanked the man and bought his CD. May I give him a plug? His name is Nestor Predocchi, and if you like relaxing Brazilian guitar then this guy will make your barbecue.